Laura Simpson, CEO of Halifax-based startup Side Door, is the first winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award, which was presented by the regional accelerator Propel at an event in Saint John on Thursday.

Side Door has developed a platform that entertainers can use to stage concerts in people’s homes or other intimate settings. CEO Laura Simpson said its bookings have increased 500 percent since February, and it is making plans to expand aggressively in the U.S. The company is now raising a seed round with a target of $2.5 million.

Propel presented the award at the culmination of its 2019 Demo Day to recognize the contribution Gerry Pond has made to the professionalization of sales, in Atlantic Canada and across Canada. The Chair of Mariner and the driving force behind the East Valley Ventures investment group, Pond has been an evangelist for sales throughout his career.

In presenting the award, Pond said sales people as a group have to shake off the stigma associated with their trade and show their value.

“Someone a long time ago made fun of this profession, but sales as a profession never fought back,” he said. “In fact, sales has become the most important function of any organization, including politics. … It’s not seen as an accreditation of any value and we’ve got to change that. And when we change that, the economy of Atlantic Canada will grow. “

Pond was introduced by TD Deputy Chair Frank McKenna, who waxed nostalgic about the days when he was Premier of New Brunswick and Pond was the CEO of NBTel – a time, McKenna joked, when Pond would always introduce him as NBTel’s Vice-President of Sales. McKenna saluted Pond, who turns 75 this year, for his commitment to innovation and economic development in Atlantic Canada.

“At a time when a lot of people have moved into a rocking chair and bought a pair of slippers, he just moved into high gear,” said McKenna. “Everything that’s good and promising about the IT industry in this region, Gerry’s at the centre of it.”

Read our Most Recent Report on Side Door

The Gerry Pond Sales Award will be presented each year to a Propel Incite Phase 2 company that excels in creating a repeatable and scalable sales process.  The winner of the new award gains a $25,000 cash prize and the option of a combined investment from Innovacorp and New Brunswick Innovation Foundation totaling $30,000.

Propel CEO Barry Bisson said the award, which is funded for five years, is awarded to an Incite participant based on four criteria:

  • Growth in sales in the first five months of the program;
  • Growth in number of customers in the first five months of the program;
  • Performance in pushing sales prospects through the company’s sales system;
  • And the degree to which the founders benefited from instruction in building a sales process.

Bisson added that Pond has been a strong advocate of sales as a profession so Propel wanted to recognize him and encourage entrepreneurs to sell more.

Quoting one of his staff members at a meeting this week, Bisson said: “This award is all about growing big fish in Gerry’s pond.”